Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Return of Julianne (and King David)

Last Sabbath was nice. We heard from Elder Price, and that was nice. In Sabbath school I was reminded how much family tensions arise from selfishness, and it was a good reminder for me.

After church I even got a bit of a nap. We played some games together, tidied up a bit for Julianne, and had a nice dinner I made in the crock pot. All in all it was a nice day.

I got up at a little before 5 the next day, and went to the airport to get Julianne. It was so nice to see her again. She was clearly worn out and tired, but we were so glad to have her back. On the way home we found a nice place to pull over, and I brought out a little breakfast I had made, and we ate it and enjoyed a nice little view and morning ambiance in the Abu Gosh area.

When we got home the kids were so excited to see her. It was a sweet reunion. She had brought back all sorts of food treats, such as tortillas, cheese sticks, macaroni and cheese, etc., so that the kids could enjoy some of the food they liked but missed. We spent the day having fun together. It was a nice day.

The next day was a field trip at Neot Kedumim. On the way there and back Julianne and I told the story of our getting married. Everyone always seems to enjoy that. It was a day where I didn’t have another faculty member with me, so it was just Julianne and I and our guide, and it went well. The students always love herding sheep and tasting plants and coming to understand more of how the land interacts with the Bible. I set up a contest between two groups for the cooking, which meant that they served me the whole time, and I was given some fantastic food. It was a fun day.
Students drawing water from a cistern

Students baking at Neot Kedumiim
Students making dough for pita
Julianne grinding hyssop
One great thing that consistently happens is that when the students are given some tasks of herding  the sheep and goats with specific goals, they do incredibly well. The guides always tell us that our students are better and faster than any other groups. They believe it is because our students are already a group, they know how to work together as a group. Additionally, there isn't anyone who is trying to be in charge or prove themselves or act like they are better than others. I guess usually you get some people like this, and it disrupts the ability to work as a group. But our students work as one, and as a true group they accomplish great things quickly. 

Julianne and students herding sheep

students herding sheep
That night we saw BYU’s Academic Vice President, Brent Webb, and his wife Amy, at dinner. When we finished visiting with students we went over and visited with them for a while. He is so pleasant, and it was good to be able to see them.

After a day of classes and business Brent Webb took the faculty and our wives to dinner. It was a very nice dinner, and we had a very nice time together, but it went very, very late.

The next day we did the City of David field trip. Brent Webb came with us, and he seemed to have a really nice time. Andy Skinner was on this field trip with us, and he was a delight. I always learn something new, and a new way of presenting things, when he is with us. We taught them about why the city was built where it was, about the sacredness of the temple site, about David’s palace, about stories associated with David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc., that happened there. 

We went over the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians as we looked over into the Kidron Valley. It is an interesting image to think of Assyrian soldiers arrayed behind Sennacherib’s Assyrian officials, standing in the Kidron Valley, in the very place where Hezekiah and his people had thrown out their idols. Because the idols had been destroyed in that valley, so too would the army that stood in that valley be destroyed. In a way their defeat had been brought about before they had even come as Hezekiah’s people had stripped themselves of idolatry. By not trusting in the power of the world, but instead casting it into the Kidron Valley, Judah had protected themselves from the power of the world, that army which stood in the Kidron Valley. Fortunately for Judah they had repented on their own, and thus in their day of need, the Lord heard them. We contrasted this with what happened when the Babylonian army arrayed itself in that same spot. This time Judah had not repented, and thus they were not spared. There is a lesson for us to learn here.

Kidron Valley from the City of David

Kidron Valley from the City of David
We went down to see the Middle Bronze era wall. I believe that Melchizedek built this wall, so it is a special place to me.

My class, and Brent Webb, in front of the Middle Bronze wall at the City of David
From there we went into the tunnels that lead to the Gihon Spring. These are massive walls that led to an even more massive gate that protected the spring. There we spoke of Solomon being anointed king, and even reenacted it a bit. We compared that to Christ coming to that area and being accepted as king. It was a nice moment. Then we had a ton of fun going through the tunnel, and eventually we had a little spiritual thought at the Pool of Siloam, where Andy talked about the healing of the man who had been born blind. It was cut short because of our need to get to the pickup spot, so it wasn’t as nice as it could have been, but it worked out okay. On the whole it was a nice day.

The corner of the tower over the Gihon Spring

Hezekiah's Tunnel
That afternoon I got some good work done on my Old Testament commentary, and then I spent time with the kids, and then I went to a lecture given by Brent Webb. It was a nice day.

On Thursday I had a nice class, and then the faculty and our wives went to Jaffa. We went to the house of Simon the Tanner, which is locked, but is a nice place to talk about the vision of Peter and how the gospel was extended to the Gentiles. We ended up having a very nice gospel discussion there. It wouldn’t have happened if David had been there, but it wasn’t, so everyone was relaxed, and we just had a good time. We saw some of the ancient ruins, and we had a nice lunch. Then we went to Apollonia, which was a beautiful place. It has some Roman ruins, but its most spectacular stuff is the ruins of a crusader castle. It is picturesque, and I loved it. I so enjoy the Skinners and Allreds and had a delightful, wonderful, enjoyable day with them.
Julianne in front of Simon the Tanner's house in Jaffa/Joppa
Julianne in front of the harbor at Jaffa/Joppa

The castle at Apollonia

The shoreline at Apollonia
Looking out of the Keep of the castle at Apollonia
The next day I had a very nice class. Then I got some work done, and Julianne and I visited and planned for a while. The kids got home and we worked on our skit for the talent show. Then we went to a branch picnic. By that same time next week the Fellows and Bransons would be gone, so this was a farewell as we all are about to part ways. Jeff Chadwick was in town, and it was so nice to see him. We visited and talked and had a great time. This is a good bunch of people, and I love being with them. We just had a lot of fun together. When we got back we had Phil over to watch a movie with, but I fell asleep before it was over.

The best part of the week happened on Thursday. We had been waiting anxiously to hear from BJ all week. We had sent him lots of letters and emails and had heard from several people who had seen him at the MTC that he was doing well, and had even gotten a picture of him sent to us. We have been praying for him every prayer any of us say, and even some of my students have been praying for him. On Thursday we got some great emails. He sounds so much like a missionary. In an email to the children he challenged them to pray for charity and to look for ways to serve each other. We had been working on having less bickering and problems, and I had been praying to know how to teach them about charity, and BJ’s email was an answer to prayer. It was amazing how much he sounded like a seasoned missionary in his emails. Clearly he is enjoying his companion, roommates’, and is getting a lot out of the experience. I am so glad. He is being blessed, and we are being blessed by him. What a wonderful thing!

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